Saturday, November 6, 2010

The Development of Our Young Leaders: Dubinsky Has Earned the 'A'

The most appropriate definition of leadership for my thinking at the moment that I could find was the following from the business dictionary:

In its essence, leadership in an organizational role involves (1) establishing a clear vision, (2) sharing (communicating) that vision with others so that they will follow willingly, (3) providing the information, knowledge, and methods to realize that vision, and (4) coordinating and balancing the conflicting interests of all members or stakeholders. A leader comes to the forefront in case of crisis, and is able to think and act in creative ways in difficult situations. Unlike management, leadership flows from the core of a personality and cannot be taught, although it may be learnt and may be enhanced through coaching or mentoring.

Plenty has been written over the past few weeks about how those qualities all apply to current Assistant Captain Ryan Callahan and how he has not only acted as the Captain with the injury to Chris Drury, but that he should get the letter before and after Drury’s return.  I do not believe that he will get the letter in either case, but he has proven that he can be the future Captain of this hockey club.  Today though what I want to focus on was the other player in my opinion who through the crisis that all these injuries could have been to this club has stepped up as a leader both in production and consistency of effort.  To me the Ranger that typifies that definition and has exhibited those qualities this season is Brandon Dubinsky.

The Rangers season is basically one month old to this point and if you had asked Ranger fans a month ago who would be the best and most consistent player for this club after a month I doubt many would have said Brandon Dubinsky but after 13 games that is the right answer.  I do not say that about Dubinsky just because he now has 10 goals, 4 assists and 14 total points in 13 games.  I say that about Dubinsky because he has been the best Ranger forward on the fore-check, the cycle, drawing penalties, making the power play work and been right there as one of the top penalty killers all while playing against the other team’s top competition.  There is no doubt that Anisimov and Callahan have contributed to Dubinsky’s success as he has to theirs seeing as how they have combined to be the team’s best line in just about every game

The question for Dubinsky was never the skill but whether he could put it together consistently and at least for 13 games he has scoring in 9 of them including 7 of the last 8 games.  Before the season I posed the question about who should be the next in line to get a letter if Prospal was out for the year and many of the answers were Staal or Dubinsky with the caveat for myself being the lockout last season was being held against Dubinsky at the time.  Obviously in the interim Marc Staal was given a temporary A while both Drury and Prospal were out of the lineup.  Then last night the Rangers had the chance with Callahan also out to name another A for the game.  They chose to go with Michal Rozsival who has worn a letter before and is having a fine season, but I believed that was the wrong choice before the game and I believe Dubinsky showed exactly why during it.

I have seen a decent number of articles written about the breakouts of Dubinsky and Callahan to start the year and more than a few have seemed to imply that Dubinsky is getting fat off of Callahan’s work and that Cally is really carrying them.  That irked me when I read it and then it just made me smile last night as I watched Dubinsky put this team on his back offensively and carry them to a victory against NJ.  As I said last night without Dubi and Henrik last night the Rangers lose.  I made the case for Henrik before the year to get a letter as well, but being a goalie that is not typical procedure.  In Dubinsky’s case instead of folding the tent with the injuries to Gaborik, Drury and Prospal for the long stretch and Callahan last night he has stepped up and worked harder than ever each night.  That to me is leadership.  That to me is why as Callahan has proven he deserves to wear the C, Dubinsky has moved away from the bad blood of the holdout last year and proven once again he is worthy of wearing an A on his sweater.

I think for some players the letters can be a negative as it causes them to try and do more than they would otherwise do and honestly I think that is part of the problem for Marc Staal right now.  Staal seems to be pressing and trying to take on more than he normally does and all the Rangers need from Staal is for him to be his typical shut-down defenseman.  I think this was the case to an extent for Callahan last year as well where he was trying to live up to the letter but this year he seems much more at ease with it and is just playing hockey again.  For a player like Dubinsky I believe not only rewarding him for his play is a healthy thing but also I believe he will take the letter as added motivation not pressure only continuing the maturity he has shown on and off the ice this season.

For Ranger fans who have really sought a consistent leader to drive a team for a few years, realize that within the next two years it should be the case that all 3 guys with letters on their chest will have come from being drafted into this organization.  To go even further there are at least half a dozen letter wearers on their current clubs in the pipeline and I am of the belief that if you combine talent with high character/leader types the organization is that much better for it.